Amid apprehensions of food scarcity, urbanites resort to vegetable farming

Published On: June 3, 2020 06:14 PM NPT By: Aditi Baral

KATHMANDU, June 3: Had it been a time when the world was not exposed to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, Sanjib Pathak would have been consulting students now– those willing to apply for foreign universities. But the 32-year-old consultant has now been spending time in his home in Naikap, reading books, but generally making the most out of his time practicing vegetable gardening.

Predicting the possible upshot of COVID-19 lockdown, Pathak started utilizing his free time at home planting and growing vegetables since the second week of lockdown. By now, Pathak and his wife have already grown various vegetables in their back garden. “We had a back garden in our house but we didn’t have enough time before the lockdown to look after it. Now we’re investing most of our time here” Pathak’s wife Reena told Republica.

Pathak is just a case in point. A large number of people in Kathmandu Valley have now started vegetable gardening in their homes, even utilizing narrow barren land around their surroundings. In Pathak’s case itself, he has tried his best to utilize even small pieces of barren land in his compound growing easy-to-grow vegetables like spinach, cauliflower, scallions, and squash. “I even planted strawberries in five different flower pots,” he said.

When some mention that this action is driven by the willingness to do something productive during the lockdown period, many others cite that they are practicing vegetable farming, predicting possible famine in days to come as the worst effect of the COVID-19 pandemic yet to come.

Analyzing the trend of growing numbers of Covid-19 cases in the nation and the prolonged lockdown, it is apparent that it will take a long time for the situation to return to normalcy. This realization has led families across the valley to plan potential alternatives for their survival – many have chosen vegetable farming in their homes and surrounding as the most relevant one. “We can survive and manage our families for a few months with saved incomes,” Pathak said, “But if the crisis continues for a few more months making it difficult for the businesses to resume their operation, this is likely to invite bigger problems.”

Pathak’s concern is genuine as the lockdown has led to relatively fewer goods getting to the market. Even farmers are not being able to harvest new vegetables and crops and the ones that are already harvested hardly reach the market.

Reports say that the global value of fruit and vegetable production exceeds that of all food grains combined. The United Nations food relief agency, the World Food Program, has also warned of a widespread famine due to the coronavirus pandemic, hinting a short time to act before millions of people become victims of starvation.

More than 30 countries in the developing world could experience widespread famine; most of these already have millions of people on the brink of starvation, according to the agency. Although Nepal is not close to the possibility of facing widespread famine, there are apprehensions that the nation might face similar problems if the spread of pandemic does not show any sign of coming to an end.

Little initiatives like vegetable farming might not be able to help on a large scale but it will definitely help families to remain self-sustained. “Vegetable farming can definitely help people in becoming self-reliant. It can also be of great help in ameliorating the environment” said Dr. Kedar Budhathoki, an agriculture expert.

Vegetable gardening also has numerous health benefits as it is said to be a natural stress reliever and helps in reducing monthly food bills allowing people to grow organic vegetables for a fraction of the cost in the stores.

However, Budathoki mentions that this is not the only way to bolt out of danger from the greater problem of food crisis if the lockdown extends any longer. “Vegetable farming in one’s home surroundings can help in making people self-reliant only in case of vegetable supply. It is still not sufficient to receive enough food grain.”

Budathoki said the halt in the transportation of food supplies from one place to another due to the lookdown has even de-motivated the farmers growing crops for larger production. “We might face severe problems in case of a food supply if the lockdown is extended even further. However, we can be optimistic that this might not happen as the lockdown is expected to ease in a few days,” he further said. 


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